The American University of Beirut has been around for a century and a half, and played witness to a number of momentous historical events that range from the Nahda to the creation of the Lebanese state.

Think you know everything there is to know about one of the greatest universities in the Middle East? Let's find out...


(Image via kth.se)

1. The American University of Beirut, established in 1866 by President Daniel Bliss, was called the Syrian Protestant College (SPC) up until 1920.

2. Most of the university’s land was bestowed by families from Ras Beirut during the early days of its establishment.

3. On December 3, 1866, the very first class in the Syrian Protestant College commenced. Technically, that makes AUB older than Germany and a witness to the untimely events of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the World Wars and the Cold War.

4. The very first building, College Hall, was completed in 1871.

5. Ten out of 15 presidents at AUB studied at an Ivy League school.

6. Cornelius Van Dyck and Nasif el Yazigi, both professors at the SPC, edited and completed Eli Smith’s copy of the first Bible translated into modern, spoken Arabic in 1867. It's known as the Smith-Van Dyke translation.

7. Although the modern discovery of Jeitta Grotto was initiated by American missionary William Thomson, two extremely important expeditions in 1873 and 1874 by W. Maxwell and H. Huxley were undertaken along with President Daniel Bliss.

8. President Bliss engraved his name on a limestone pillar in Jeitta.

9. Although the Lee Observatory is now closed and astronomy is no longer taught (as of the 1970s), it’s worth knowing that when it opened in 1873, it was the very first of its kind in the Middle East.

10. While World War I created animosity between the United States and Turkey, AUB, under President Howard Bliss, chose to keep the university’s doors open and was very accommodating towards international students who couldn’t leave Beirut.

11. Only once throughout the entirety of its history did AUB officially close – with the exception of the School of Dentistry. This happened for two weeks in April of 1917 during which relations between the Ottomans and Americans were rigorously condemned.


(AUB's College Hall. Photo via theacss.org)

12. In 1914, West Hall – which today is one of the official hangout spots for students – was officially completed.

13. It was during that very year that soon-to-be President Bayard Dodge married the granddaughter of Daniel Bliss, founder of AUB.

14. Dr. Bayard Dodge was a commendable president from 1923-1948 for several reasons, one of them being that he made a firm choice not to receive a salary for his post as president. Additionally, his donations to the university were always made anonymously due to his laudable modesty.

15. Howard Bliss, the second president of AUB, was a representative at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.

16. Bliss was also an important figure in the formation of the King-Crane Commission, which was a US-led investigation of non-Turkish areas under the previous Ottoman Empire.

17. The very first student protest that took place in the Arab region sprouted at AUB. This uprising was a consequence of the “Lewis Affair” which took place when Charles Darwin, the famous geologist who theorized the concept of evolution, was cited by Professor Lewis.

18. In 1905, the Syrian Protestant College established its medical hospital – today known as AUBMC – along with a nursing school now known as the Rafik Hariri School of Nursing.

19. Arab nationalism was fostered under the auspices of the SPC. Despite its Western nature, one of the main missions of the university was to spread Arab nationalism and foster Arabic culture.

20. Jamiyat-al-Urwah-al-Wuthqa (The Society of the Unbreakable Bond), founded in 1918 by Muhieddine Nsouli, was one of the first Arab national societies, and it sprung from AUB.


(A class in the Chemistry building. Photo via altervista.org)

21. AUB, as of 1921, was one of the first universities both in the region (and even on the scale of the U.S.) to be co-ed.

22. Nineteen members of the AUB community were active in the formation of the United Nations.

23. Professor Charles Malik, in addition to representing Lebanon at the San Francisco Conference, was among the people who contributed to the drafting of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

24. Charles Malik received his Bachelor's Degree from AUB and went on to Harvard for his graduate education.

25. Upon returning to AUB, Malik established the much-loved Philosophy Department, in addition to introducing the Civilization Sequence program that most students today are required to take.

26. President Stephen Penrose, the writer of the valuable book on AUB, “That They May Have Life,” died in his sleep at AUB in 1954.

27. The tram in Beirut used to pass through Bliss Street and drop students off at both the Main Gate and Penrose Gate.


(The old Tramway passing by AUB's medical gate. Photo via blogbaladi.com)

28. During one particularly frenzied strike on campus in the 1970s, then-President Samuel B. Kirkwood, stood in the middle of all the chaos and calmed everyone down. It was a memorable moment during his time as president.

29. The AUB Chapel was moved into what is now the Assembly Hall during the civil war as a deliberate decision by the Board of Trustees to send a message that the university accepts people from all backgrounds, regardless of race, religion or identity.

30. During the civil war, President Malcom Kerr and Dean Raymond Ghosn were both assassinated on campus.

31. College Hall was severely destroyed during an explosion in 1991 and was restored and re-instated in 1999.

32. AUB boasts a protected green area, one of the few in Lebanon. When flying over it, one will notice that with the exception of Horsh Beirut, AUB is the only visible area of large greenery.


(The front gate at AUB. Photo via blogspot)

33. AUB is the only university in Lebanon to boast a women's rugby team.

34. AUB is also the only university in Lebanon with an American Football Team.

35. With a Title IX Coordinator, AUB is the only university in Lebanon which, under US laws, ensures that justice against harassment, discrimination and violence is officially met.

36. In 2014, 20,000 people attended the AUB Outdoors Festival in a single weekend.

37. The largest university job fair in the Arab region is the annual AUB Job Fair.

38. In 2014, a $32 million donation from Jamal Daniel and the Levant Foundation was given towards AUBMC’s expansion. This signifies the largest sum ever gifted to AUB in its history.


(A photo from AUB Outdoors Festival 2014 via aub.edu.lb)

39. The first virtually-augmented surgery in the region was conducted at AUBMC last year. It involved the restructuring of a young child's cleft lip.

40. Today, AUB is home to 64 buildings, including three museums and five libraries.

41. The AUB Archaeological Museum is the second oldest museum in the Middle East.

42. In 2014, AUB's library joined libraries from the US in establishing a digital library of more than 10,000 Arabic volumes.


Special thanks to President Peter Dorman, Dr. Lekman Meho and Dr. Talal Nizameddine for help compiling this information.

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AUB will always be in my heart. My dad attended AUB when it was then called Syrian Protestant Colllege.

Winny Kazan on May 22, 2015 via mobile web
 
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Very informative and interesting, however; I was expecting to see something about AUB Farm in Bekaa (AREC) Agricultural Research and Educational Center which was first of its kind in the area by 1950.

Ziad D. Jaber on May 14, 2015 via mobile web